The key to using calculators in class

How can calculators help pupils learn mental arithmetic?

It might seem bizarre to allow younger pupils to use calculators to improve their mental arithmetic. But there are methods for doing it, as the DfES guidance illustrates.

Six and seven-year-old children can be given calculators then presented with a sequence of numbers on the whiteboard. (The following numbers can be placed in separate grey or coloured boxes, but must be in a single row) 3 7 2 8 10 9 5 3

The aim of the exercise is to move from one number to the next in the sequence, using a calculator. Children first key in 3, then the correct operation to show the next number (plus 4, minus 5, plus 6 and so on). The sum has to be carried out mentally before the calculator is used. The exercise also teaches children how to use addition and subtraction keys.

What should children be able to do with calculators?

Reception to Year 3

They should be carrying out calculations mentally or on paper, rather than using calculators. But they can be used in other ways, such as to get pupils used to large numbers and patterns or as a prop in role play.

Year 4

Use them to carry out one-step and two-step calculations involving subtraction, addition, multiplication and division; recognise negative numbers, correct mistakes and interpret money displays.

Year 5

Solve problems, including those involving decimals or fractions (eg, find 34 of 150g); interpret the display correctly in the context of measurement.

Year 6

Use a calculator to solve problems involving multi-step calculations.

Year 6 to Year 7

Use bracket keys and the calculator's memory to carry out calculations with more than one step; use the square root key.

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